“There’s a U-Boat on the Beach”
Helen Davies looked out of her window at The Queens” on Hastings Seafront and saw a submarine washed up on the beach. It was the morning of 15 April 1919.
The Great War had been over for five months and the people of Hastings were beginning to come to terms with their losses and starting out on a new peacetime life. Helen looked down from her high vantage point at the terrible instument of war and her thoughts turned back over the two short years since her Tom had been lost at sea, his ship being a U-Boat victim. Was it possible that this same submarine being battered by the high tide, could have been the very one that killed her man? How had the U-118, for that was the number of the craft, arrived at Hastings?.
It transpired that under the command of Herbert Strohwasser, U-118 managed to sink two ships while on its one and only patrol before being surrendered on February 23 1919 – exactly one year after it was launched. U-118, a type two boat built at the Vulcan Shipyard in Hamburg, was not responsible for the death of Tom Davies, U-118 was not completed until long after his ship had gone to her watery grave.
U-118 was to be transferred from Scarpa Flo to Cherburg but the tow parted and she went aground off Hastings on April 15, 1919, despite attempts by a French destroyer to break her up with gunfire.
“A retrospect article in the ‘Hastings Observer’ recalled how “Thousands of people flocked to the seafront near the Queens Hotel to catch a glimpse of the boat. The town clerk quickly started charging people a small fee to be allowed on board.
The proceeds went towards the Mayor’s Fund for the welcome home of the troops which was planned for later that year.
Eventually though, as residents grew sick of children pelting the boat with rocks and making a racket throughout the night, the order was given to break her up.
Parts of U-118 were snatched and dispersed all over Hastings.
The town itself was presented with the submarine’s gun but it was buried in the shingle by wave action.
Although recovered again in 1921 it was disposed of despite calls for it to be mounted on a plinth and kept.”
Hastings Town February 2008,
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